From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Four people have been confirmed dead in a gun battle between troops of the Joint Task Force, Operation DELTA SAFE (ODS) and suspected militants in Oluasiri community in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
Already there had palpable tension in area as the people of Oluasiri cried out over what they called the invasion of the community and killing of its people by the military between Thursday and Friday.
Sources in the community said a six-month-old baby, her mother and two others, were confirmed dead after the operation conducted by armed soldiers against suspected militants in Oluasiri Clan in Nembe Local Government Area of the state.
According to investigations the names of the identified victims include Mr. Wilson Patason, Madam Beauty Christian Gamage and her infant while many others were also confirmed to be on a critical list with various levels of injuries.
Security sources explained that the security operation was launched to dislodge suspected militants and sea pirates hiding in the community but the military troops were attacked by the suspected militants leading to a gun duel.
A community source stated that some suspected sea pirates and militants had forcefully been residing within the community and some people informed the military to come and dislodge them.
“The armed militants were residing in the community forcefully. The Armed militants had become lawless and this may have caused the security Operations.
“But as you know, these boys also pay some military men and may have been tipped off by some of their military friends. They had left the community before soldiers arrived. The soldiers arrived in six gun boats and started shooting indiscriminately. It is sad and unprofessional.”
The Oluasiri community in a statement described as “reckless and nefarious” the wanton invasion of Ben-Ama and Tengele-Ama by the Nigerian Military, which reportedly left four persons dead including a mother and her six months old baby and several others critically injured.
The statement, jointly signed by the President of Oluasiri Development Union, Deacon Gamage Difurotogu and the President of Oluasiri Youth Federation, Kienworio Tanga, said the people of Oluasiri called on the Federal Government and Civil Liberty Organisations (CLO) to carry out an investigation in order to unravel the mysteries behind the ugly incident.
The statement read in parts, “The incident is show of stark recklessness and nefarious for the military to invade hitherto peaceful communities with six gunboats, causing undue pandemonium, all in the name of searching for suspected criminals in the area.
“The people of the affected communities are law-abiding citizens. We urged the Nigerian military to go and search for the criminals at their various hideouts in the creeks, as no Oluasiri community is a safe haven to criminals.”
The Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) through its Bayelsa Chapter Chairman, Chief Nengi James, condemned the military invasion describing it as barbaric and unprofessional.
The IYC, through its President, Barr. Eric Omare, also condemned the invasion as dastardly act by the military in the guise of looking for suspected criminals.
The IYC called on the military authorities to comply with the rules of engagement in their operations in the Niger Delta.
The spokesman of the ODS, Major Ibrahim Abdullahi in an interview dismissed the claims that the military invaded the community.
According to him, the ODS had intelligence reports that criminal bandits were hiding in the community and in line with its mandate to protect oil facilities in the Niger Delta and rid it of criminal gangs it went to the community.
“We had intelligence reports that some criminal bandits were hiding in the community and in line with the mandate of the ODS we went there only to be attacked by the criminals.
“However due to the superior fire power of ODS troops we over powered them and we were able to recover arms and ammunition.”